In the last 60 years, people have come to rely on things like refrigerators, stoves, and electric heat. In fact, most people tend to take these things for granted.
But, what would you do if you didn’t have access to these and other amenities?
Now, you may be thinking that this is going to be another article about people living in third world countries. But, this is actually something that can happen to anyone, anywhere, including right here in North America. Let me tell you my story.
I’ll Start At The Start
Five years ago, my marriage came to an end. I was left with five minute’s notice, less than $1 to my name, and nearly $10,000 in debts that my husband and I had massed together. Unfortunately, most of the bills were in my name only, so he was able to walk away with little debt, and left me with the bulk of it.
I tried my best to keep up with all of the bills, but in the end, I just couldn’t do it all on my own. I ended up having to let a few things slip, and that is where the trouble started.
After a few months of trying, unsuccessfully, to keep up with high energy bills, my electricity was shut off. This happened during a particularly cold snap near the end of a cold winter, with temperatures well below 0.
Because my home has electric heat, I was left with no way to heat my home. Buying a gas generator was out of the question. After all, if I couldn’t afford electricity, there was no way I could afford a generator and the gas to run it. In just a few hours, the temperature inside my home dropped considerably, and myself and my three cats were very cold. How was I going to be able to live like this?
That first night, I brought out all of the extra blankets, and as many sweaters and other warm clothing items I could possibly find. While this helped a little bit, I was still cold, and had to figure out how to stay warm until the weather began to warm up.
I started making my own heaters out of tea light candles and terracotta pots. Surprisingly enough, they actually worked.
Then, there was the question of how I was going to do anything without lights in my home.
I went to the local dollar store and purchased several flashlights, candles, emergency lights, etc., and a ton of batteries. I also purchased reusable hand and foot warmers, as well as I even bought a headlamp so I could read, since with no electricity, there was little else for me to do while sitting here alone in the dark. This also helped me to see in order to be able to get around the house.
Time Has Passed
Now, let’s fast forward a bit. After some time using the candles and pots for heating, I managed to go through the rough season. During summer I could save some money and pay off the electricity bill and get my heat back.
Then, just when I thought things were getting better, more setbacks came along. All of the baseboard heaters and thermostats in my home ceased to function properly, and then, my fridge and stove decided to stop working as well. At this point, winter was fast approaching once again, and I worried about keeping warm and being able to eat hot, nutritious foods.
I still have no fridge or stove. I was able to find a good deal on a very tiny fridge that would normally be used in an RV camper. But, this only holds a few smaller items, so I basically only use it for beverages and small food items.
When I shop for groceries, I make sure that everything I purchase will not have to be cooked. Yes, I do have a microwave and a small toaster oven, which have come in quite handy during this rough patch, but it isn’t like I am able to prepare meals. I can’t even wash dishes, so there is really no sense in trying to cook anything. But, this doesn’t stop me from enjoying most of my favorite foods.
I just prepare things differently than I used to. Since I am unable to wash dishes, I rely on paper plates and plastic cutlery.
Needless to say, I had to make sure that my pantry was well-stocked with foods that would keep me well-nourished, without needing to be cooked. When you look inside my cupboards, you will find many easy-to-prepare foods. I have been relying heavily on high-protein foods, including canned soups, beans, etc that can be heated up in a microwave or on a hotplate. Peanut butter has been a main staple, as it is high in protein, as well as other nut butters that do not need to be refrigerated.
Related: Homestead Pantry Tour
Since I do have that tiny fridge, I am also able to keep cheese on-hand, which ensures I have plenty of dairy in my diet.
In order to get the fruits and vegetables needed for a healthy, well-balanced diet, I do have to resort to buying pre-made salads that I can eat right away.
Not long afterwards, I had a pipe burst, and my entire house flooded (I ended up trying to fix things while standing in nearly three feet of freezing cold water in my basement in the middle of a cold February). Unfortunately, the repairs were beyond my means, both in skills and having enough funds to bring in a plumber. This was yet one more expense I couldn’t afford to take care of, and two years later, I am still living without running water.
So, I swallowed my pride, and asked neighbors for help. If I needed a hot shower or a hot meal, I was able to visit them and take care of these needs. In return, I offered services, including house cleaning and babysitting their children. Of course, this is not something I want to do forever, but as the old saying goes, “you gotta do what you gotta do”.
With the exception of hot showers and cooking the occasional hot meal, I do try to avoid asking anyone for help. I am lucky enough to have a stream behind my home, so I go back and forth daily to fill jugs of water to use for my toilet. I keep baby wipes on hand at all times in order to be able to have sponge baths.
Basically, what I am trying to say, is that anyone can live without the amenities we have come to depend on so greatly. All it takes is determination to survive anything, no matter what is thrown at you. There are ways to stay warm. There are ways to stay fed. There are ways to survive.
When the chips are down, you can either step on them and crush them to pieces without trying to pick them up and move on, or enjoy them on a sandwich instead of lettuce when you don’t have a refrigerator to keep it in.
As they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade (which I do make sure there is plenty of room for in that tiny fridge)!
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